The Amazing Durability of Patrick Marleau

As discussed recently, Marleau has played more games than anyone else in NHL history. Some players have played more seasons, and yet, he has beat them all for games played.

The following charts show exactly why this is. Hint: he has played in 98% of the games available to him.

This first graph summarizes players with long careers and high utilization rates.

These figures reflect the data from QuantHockey.com.

Here is a graph showing the top 7 players with the best utilization rates. Note that this chart has some slight differences from the QuantHockey graphs. This is because QuantHockey differs slightly on counting potential games when a player is traded mid-season, and also the 2019/20 season, which saw an unequal number of games played by different teams.

Besides Marleau, two other active players are in their 23rd NHL seasons, but have played more than 100 fewer games.

Joe Thornton has played in 92.5% of games. Note that neither Thornton nor Marleau played in 2005 (at the age of 25) because of the NHL lockout.

Zdeno Chara has played in 88.6% of games.

Another durable active player is Ovcheckin (although, the 35 year old is currently out with an injury).

Going back in time, let’s first compare against Gretzky. Gretzky had a very good utilization rate at 93.9% (although he did retire at 37). He currently sits 24th all time for games played.

Next, let’s compare against Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe. 96.9% is one of the highest in NHL history.

Mark Messier has played in more games than anyone except Marleau and Howe, but that still only equates to 88.1% utilization.

91.2% for Jagr.

Ron Francis had a long and healthy career, playing in 94.4% of games.

Mark Recchi played in 93.5% of his games.

Chris Chelios sits in 8th all time for games played, and yet his utilization rate is just 79.2%.

Dave Andreychuk is in 9th for games played, and played in 89.3% of games available to him.

To round out the top 10 for games played is Scott Stevens who played in 93.2% of games.

Larry Murphy sits in 11th for games played, but has a very high utilization rate.

Ray Bourque played a lot of games.

Nichlas Lidstrom played in 97.3% of games.

Jarome Iginla had a high rate too.

Looking back into the past at players who played in earlier eras, some of the top players I could find were as follows.

Finally, let’s put in a goalie. Any modern goalie (like Ryan Miller who announced his retirement today) would typically be in the 50 to 60% range, but during the early years of the NHL goalies would play as many games as players. Georges Vezina played his entire career without missing a game, but he left the first game of the 1925/26 season and died before returning, so they count the rest of the season as missed games. This only gives him a utilization rate of 84.1%. His main rival, Clint Benedict played in 90% of his games.

The 2×2 comparison charts are from QuantHockey.

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The Truth About Vernon’s Poor Air Quality

One of the supposed mysteries about the Okanagan valley is that Vernon is often sitting under a poor air quality advisory while Kelowna’s air is just fine. This is particularly true during the spring before they sweep the gravel off the streets. For example, the current Spring.

In Facebook groups and other places where local issues are discussed I see comments year after year wondering why Vernon with 40,000 people can have such bad air quality while Kelowna with a population closer to 200,000 has significantly better air quality.

As the link above hints at, the difference has everything to do with the location of the sensor. The poor air quality readings in Vernon are obviously an embarrassment to the city since they have asked the province to move the sensor location. They would rather have 6 sensors spread around the city replacing the current location at the Okanagan Science Centre because this reduces the number of warnings the city would be obligated to issue each year.

City of Vernon

Certainly more sensors would be better, but to move the current location to a quieter part of the city reduces the quality of monitoring; the motivation for moving the sensor is to save face rather than knowing how bad the air quality actually is.

Traffic in Vernon bottlenecks through the downtown near the monitoring station. Highway 6 comes into the city, passing right by the sensor at the Science Centre, before meeting highway 97 just around the corner. This is the busiest intersection in Vernon.

Location of Vernon Air Quality Monitoring Station

By contrast, Kelowna’s air quality station is far to the south of the busiest parts of the city. The station is also a lot further off the street, so it does not pick up a lot of road dust from KLO road.

Kelowna Air Quality Station Location

Additionally, Kelowna’s sensor has a sizable chunk of farm land to the east, and it’s on a straight road, far from any intersections. By contrast, Vernon’s monitoring location is on the very busy highway 6 truck route, and large semis spit up tremendous amounts of dust. It is also near an intersection, so there’s the additional pollution from acceleration and idling.

Zoomed in View of Kelowna Air Quality Station

The City of Vernon wants to move the sensor to a quieter spot to make the city look better to the public, but I would think that the province should instead move the Kelowna sensor closer to the downtown to better capture the air that people have to breathe while living and working near the highway 97 corridor. Of course, this would get significant push-back from the city political figures, so it won’t happen.

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Patrick Marleau Breaks a 59 Year Old NHL Record!

In September 1979 a 51 year old Gordie Howe was warming up at training camp to play an unthinkable 26th year in the NHL. At the same time in his native Saskatchwan, a baby was born who would break his record for games played some 41 years later.

Tonight in Los Vegas, San Jose’s Patrick Marleau stepped onto the ice for his 1,768th NHL game, passing Mr. Hockey himself for the most regular season games in NHL history!

One could argue that he still needs to play another season to pass Mark Messier’s regular season plus playoffs, and play many more seasons to catch Gordie Howe’s regular season total if we count the 6 years he played in the rival WHA (World Hockey Association). The only other player who has played as many professional games is Jaromir Jagr who is still playing in Europe.

We could say all that, but the NHL is the most demanding and competitive league in the world, and counting regular season games is how longevity at the highest level has been counted historically, so Marleau is the most experienced player in NHL history, a truly amazing feat!

Since the NHL began in 1917/18 there have been 11 different “most games played” champions. Of course, the NHL started out as a 22 game season and has slowly worked up to the current 82 game season, so the leader kept changing every few years. The fact that Howe’s record stood so long given that he started out playing in a 60 game season speaks to his longevity as a player.

Practically speaking, the league really started in 1910 because there was no real difference between the NHA (National Hockey Association) and the NHL besides the name change. The NHL was formed with all the same players as the NHA, but was done so just to get rid of the Toronto owner that all the other owners didn’t like. Including the NHA data adds a few more leaders.

Harry Smith won the “most games played” in the inaugural 1910 NHA season because he was traded halfway through, so managed to play 13 games during the year, one more than the scheduled number of games.

The following season was bumped up to 16 games as Georges Vezina entered the league. He would play every single minute of every game for the Montreal Canadiens for over 15 years, and still only end up playing 328 games. During his last full season in 1924/25, the league went to 30 games for the first time.

His main rival for most of his career, Clint Benedict, didn’t play as many seasons, but still played more games despite missing games from serious injuries, and eventually ending his career pre-maturely from a puck to the face.

Dit Clapper (I have to say, that’s one of my favourite hockey player names of all time) did the unthinkable before Howe, playing 20 seasons in the NHL. His record stood for 13 years until Maurice “The Rocket” Richard passed Dit Clapper, and of course, with fewer seasons because he had the advantage of starting out with a 50 game schedule, and quickly moving to 60 and then 70 game seasons.

Gordie Howe started out playing 60 game seasons, then 70 games, and eventually 76 games. It was only during his last season in 1979/80 when he finally played in an 80 game season. And yet, no one has been able to beat him until now.

Marleau’s record is guaranteed to stand for at least two years since Joe Thornton is more than a full season’s worth of games behind.

Amazingly enough, Patrick Marleau has done what no other player in the post-70 game schedule league has been able to do, and he did it while missing the entire 2004/05 season because of the NHL lockout, almost half a season in 2012/13 from another contract dispute, and finally two reduced seasons from Covid-19.

Congrats to Pat Marleau!

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Will The Great Eight Catch The Great One?

Alex “The Great Eight” Ovechkin is one of the best goal scorers in NHL history, and continues to put up impressive numbers in his mid 30s. In fact, for the first time in his career, just last year at age 34, he scored more goals than every other 34 year had in NHL history.

In terms of cumulative goals scored, only Wayne Gretzky scored more goals by age 35, so most of the others above him on the all time list are going to be easy to catch, barring serious injury.

Wayne Gretzky will be tough to beat, and Covid is not helping. The 2021 season has been shorted by Covid, and Ovechkin was forced to miss an additional two weeks of hockey due to possible Covid exposure.

Gretzky peaked in his early 20s, and had the fortune of playing on an offensive powerhouse during the high scoring 1980s, so it’s safe to say that Ovechkin is a better goal scoring talent even if he never catches him.

Perhaps the only players in NHL history who were better than Ovechkin at putting the puck in net have already been passed. Mario Lemieux was sidelined with cancer right as he was hitting peak stride and later suffered from back injuries. Meanwhile, Mike Bossy retired at age 30 from back injuries. Both were ahead of Alex Ovechkin when their health failed.

No one has been as consistent for so long in the NHL. Ovechkin has won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the player scoring the most goals during the regular season 9 different times, including 7 of the last 8 years. The only player who is comparable is Bobby Hull who scored the most goals 7 times until ditching the NHL for the rival WHA at the age of 34. Hull continued to dominate in the goal scoring department in the WHA until injuries started slowing him down at 37, so perhaps he could have eked out another couple of more titles in the NHL had he stayed. Still, when he left he was the age Ovechkin is now, and had only 7 titles against Ovechkin’s 9.

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Is Della Falls the Tallest Waterfall in Canada?

First, lets address the core of the issue. Della Falls stands 1,443 feet tall per the Atlas of Canada. Nearly all of the information we have seen which perpetuates the idea that Della Falls is Canada’s tallest cite the Atlas of Canada as the definitive source. Topographic data from multiple sources – including the Atlas of Canada – has thus far backed up the claimed height of 1,443 feet, so we have little reason to think the height of the falls is anything but (relatively) accurate. What this means then is that, for this claim to be true, there should be no other waterfall in Canada which is taller than Della Falls. The problem, however, is that there are. Lots. There are 22 waterfalls inventoried throughout Canada which stand at least 1,444 feet tall.

The first argument usually put up against debunking this myth is that Della Falls is a free-leaping waterfall and none of the other waterfalls which are taller than Della Falls are truly free-leaping, and hence shouldn’t count. The biggest problem with this counter-argument is that Della Falls itself is not a free leaping waterfall. In fact, Della Falls could be considered to be a waterfall of three distinct leaps. It isn’t so much a traditional Tiered type waterfall in that there are not distinct pauses in between each of the three vertical portions of the falls, but there are “pauses” of sorts where the creek cascades steeply down bouldery substrate instead of over bedrock – either way, it certainly isn’t free falling. This issue aside, the only truly free-leaping part of the falls is the uppermost 400 feet (approximately) of the drop, below there the creek retains some contact with the bedrock for the remaining descent.

della-falls-topo

Della-Falls

Point 1 marks the very top of the falls, at (approximate) elevation of 1,040m. Point 2 marks the bottom of the initial and most vertical drop of the falls. This point is approximately 460 feet below and 190 feet to the east of the top of the falls. Point 3 marks the top of the second steep part of the falls, where the stream has split into two main channels. Between points 2 and 3, the stream loses another 200 feet in elevation but flows laterally for 200 feet. From Point 3 to Point 4, which represents the bottom of the second steep part of the falls, the stream loses about 530 feet in elevation while flowing laterally for about 460 feet. From Point 4 to Point 5 the stream flows about 230 feet laterally while losing only about 30 feet in elevation. From Point 5 in the photo to Point 5 on the map, the final drop of 200 vertical feet in 130 lateral feet takes place. So, once again it looks like Della Falls does indeed fall 1,443 feet, but it does it in a run of over 1,200 feet – an average pitch of about 50 degrees, which can hardly be considered vertical.

Clearly Della isn’t a vertical waterfall and can’t be considered Canada’s tallest based on that criteria. So, for the sake of argument lets address the claim that Della Falls is Canada’s tallest waterfall based on the idea that it is a single non-vertical waterfall of 1,443 feet in height. What we now have to figure out is whether any of these 22 other waterfalls which we already know to be taller than Della Falls based on total height are in fact taller in one non-vertical drop. Many of them are, in fact, multi-step non-vertical waterfalls which don’t meet the criteria right away. Bedard Falls, Bush Mountain Falls and Storey Peak Falls, for example, all flume down the side of their respective mountains – in some places vertically, but mostly in multiple slides or cascades. Others, such as Madden Falls and Michael Falls may drop vertically, but they do so over a series of steps which can’t be considered to be a single drop in even the most liberal of sense.

But whittling down the list, we find three candidates which do appear to legitimately oust Della Falls based on any claim made; Kingcome Valley Falls, Bishop Falls and Cerberus Falls. The unofficially named Kingcome Valley Falls, deep within the coast mountains, drops some 1,700 feet off a nearly sheer bluff. The drainage area is tiny and though it may flow for most of the year, it almost certainly runs dry at some point in the season and even at its best isn’t a waterfall of significant volume. Certainly a taller waterfall, but for some perhaps not considered “significant” enough to be thought of as a legitimate waterfall.

Bishop Falls, found in the Taku River valley about 75km northeast of Juneau, Alaska, is a lofty fall of moderate to high volume (at least during the warmer months). To the best of our knowledge, it hasn’t been measured by any group. The most conservative estimates place it to be around 1,450 feet in height, which puts it right around the size of Della Falls. However, its true height may be closer to 1,600 feet when all is said and done. Proving this, however, will necessitates on-site surveying. Also note that while Bishop Falls is technically classified as a single-drop waterfall, it does have a “step” of sorts about a third of the way down, but this step is of significantly smaller size than those that are present in Della Falls itself, so it should not be looked at as a disqualifier.

icefallbrook_08012010

Cerberus Falls is found along Icefall Brook at the head of Icefall Canyon in the heart of the Canadian Rockies about 70km north of Golden, British Columbia. We don’t have to second guess this one, because members of the World Waterfall Database surveyed and measured Cerberus Falls with both a laser rangefinder and GPS positioning in August of 2010. They found the falls to stand 1,558 feet tall, possibly more depending on how a secondary stream parallel to the main falls proves to be influence by the source glacier. Not only is this waterfall a full 100 feet taller than Della Falls, but it’s a nearly vertical, single drop of 1,558 feet.

So, in summary, yes Della Falls is as tall as it is claimed to be, but it is not a vertical waterfall so it cannot be considered to be the tallest vertical waterfall in Canada, and if Della Falls is to be considered a single-drop waterfall – which is debatable in itself – it cannot be considered the tallest single-drop waterfall because there are other single-drop waterfalls which are taller. So, ultimately, Della Falls cannot be considered the tallest waterfall in Canada by any metric.

So why then has Della Falls been considered to be the tallest waterfall in Canada for so long? The answer is simply publicity. Della Falls was discovered in 1899 and was romanticized quickly by the tales of early visitors. Strathcona Provincial Park, the first in British Columbia, was established shortly after in 1911 and the notoriety of the falls surely added to the reasons for protecting the area. But on top of that is the fact that the falls lay on crown (government) land, and as a result the government has no doubt publicized information about the falls countless times. This is significant because when quantifiable information – such as the height of mountains or waterfalls – is compiled, government entities are generally viewed as a reliable source. So, if Della Falls was at one time thought to be the tallest waterfall in Canada according to the Canadian government, chances are that information simply propagated outwards from there without anyone thinking to fact check it because its ultimate source was thought to be accurate. What’s funny is that any ordinary person knows just how inefficient and inaccurate any governing body can be. Just goes to show that questions should always be asked, no matter the source of information.

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2021 Property Tax Increases Across British Columbia

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What is the largest Pacific river in North America?

Yukon River delta as seen by satellite

For some reason, whenever the discussion comes up about the largest rivers, everyone talks about length as if that’s the most important metric. In my view, it’s the least interesting, and only shows which river basin is long and skinny. The Nile is famous for being long and skinny, but it’s volume and drainage basin area is a small drop in the bucket compared to the Amazon.

The other thing about length is that it’s somewhat subjective. Are we just following the river that bears the name or are we following up the longest tributary? If we follow just the name, the Nile is longer than the Amazon, but if we trace the tributary that will give the longest distance, the Amazon is longer.

But enough about that age old comparison, let’s juxtapose the largest North American rivers flowing into the Pacific ocean. For this exercise, I did not include the tributaries. If I had, then some of the largest ones of the Yukon, Fraser, and Columbia would be on all three graphs.

The location is the jurisdiction at the mouth (although the volume of the Colorado River is measured in Topock, AZ because that’s the location of maximum volume). 18 rivers were included in the following three graphs because the same 18 make the cut on each chart (if 16 rivers were included instead, for example, then one of the “top 16” for volume would be off the “top 16” list for length).

Let’s start with length.

This one surprised me. I did not realize that the Yukon was that much longer than any of the other rivers, nor did I expect that the Colorado was longer than the Columbia.

Next, let’s compare the rivers by drainage basin size.

Once again the Yukon is far ahead of the others. Perhaps most surprising to me is that the Fraser is less than half that of the Colorado, and under 1/3 the size of the Yukon and Columbia.

Finally, let’s do a volume comparison.

Because of the desert conditions in the Colorado River basin (along with irrigation and other water uses), the river drops down to 11th spot. Since the Columbia (along with the Fraser) drains the world’s only temperate interior rain forest, it moves up to first spot.

So what’s the largest Pacific river in North America?

Well, that depends on how you define “largest,” but if we’re talking about the amount of water flowing into the ocean, it’s the Columbia.

Similar to length, volume is also hard to measure because the measuring point for the mouth is often 100s of kilometers inland to avoid the effects of tidal water getting in the way. For example, the Fraser is measured at Hope, which is over 100km inland.

A river’s drainage basin size is my favourite way of comparing sizes, so I’m inclined to name the Yukon as the largest Pacific river in North America.

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Most Games Played by Decade

This month the New York Rangers decided to buy out the remainder of Henrik Lundqvist’s contract. He has been one of the best goalies in the league for a long time, but the 38 year old Lundqvist is one of the oldest goalie in the NHL today, so the team wants a younger man between the pipes.

I was thinking about the fact that no one else has played more regular season games in the league over the past decade than “King Henrik,” and wondered what it would look like to chart the top 5 goalies each decade, ranked them by games played.

Before breaking things down by decade, here is a table showing every goalie who played in at least 500 games in any given decade.

ALL GOALIES WITH OVER 500 GAMES IN A DECADE
NameGPDecade
Terry Sawchuk6351950s
Tony Esposito6351970s
Martin Brodeur6292000s
Patrick Roy6001990s
Ed Belfour5891990s
Roberto Luongo5882000s
Curtis Joseph5721990s
Evgeni Nabokov5522000s
Henrik Lundqvist5492010s
Carey Price5482010s
Rogie Vachon5461970s
Pekka Rinne5462010s
Marc-Andre Fleury5452010s
Mike Liut5431980s
Mike Richter5301990s
Jonathan Quick5252010s
Greg Millen5191980s
Glenn Hall5161960s
John Vanbiesbrouck5131990s
Bill Ranford5111990s
Marty Turco5092000s
Sergei Bobrovsky5072010s
Tomáš Vokoun5042000s
Devan Dubnyk5012010s

Generally speaking, a goalie’s career is not long enough to put him near the top in two different decades, but there were six exceptions, and half of them were born in 1929: Gump Worsley, Jacques Plante, and Terry Sawchuck. These were the last three goalies to make the top 5 in two separate decades (1950s and the 1960s). They are also the youngest dead goalies as of 2020.

Because these three were still playing at the age of 40 in 1970, and because the only two men who played more games than them during the 1960s were also seasoned veterans (Johnny Bower was even older), the average age of a top 5 goalie in the 1960s was 10 years higher than either of the previous two decades and 5 years higher than the 2nd oldest decade (1930s).

Let’s look at a graph to see what I mean.

The above graph shows the average age for all five men at the beginning and the end of the decade. Taking the most recent ten year period, we have Lundqvist and Pekka Rinne born in 1982, Marc-Andre Fleury born in 1984, Jonathan Quick born in 1986, and Carey Price born in 1987. So the average age of these goalies in 2010 was 25.8 years old, and by 2020 they were collectively 35.8 years old.

Notice how all the 2010 goalies were born in the 1980s. This generally holds for other decades with the goalies being born two decades earlier, but the 1960s was the exception with 4 out of 5 goalies being born in the 1920s, and the lone 1930s goalie was Glenn Hall, born in 1931.

The lone 1930s representative is the oldest goalie still alive today. Everyone younger is still alive because there’s a massive age gap between Hall and the next oldest goalie on the list, Tony Esposito, who was born in 1943.

Tony Esposito was the top goalie in the 1970s, playing 635 games. The only other person to play this many games in a decade was Terry Sawchuk in the 1950s, also playing 635 games. Just two other goaltenders ever managed 600 games in a decade. The first was Patrick Roy in the 1990s and the last was Martin Brodeur who played 629 games in the 2000s. If there was no cancelled season in 2004/05 due to the labour lockout, Brodeur could have easily beaten the Sawchuk-Esposito record. But he didn’t.

2010s
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Henrik Lundqvist1982Sweden54933
Carey Price1987BC54828
Pekka Rinne1982Finland54633
Marc-Andre Fleury1984Quebec54531
Jonathan Quick1986Connecticut52529
The 2010s decade was the second time ever that no goalie from Ontario made the list (the same thing happened in the 1960s).

2000s
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Martin Brodeur1972Quebec62933
Roberto Luongo1979Quebec58826
Evgeni Nabokov1975USSR55230
Marty Turco1975Ontario50930
Tomáš Vokoun1976Czechoslovakia50429
The 2000s was the first decade featuring European goalies
1990s
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Patrick Roy1965Quebec60030
Ed Belfour1965Manitoba58930
Curtis Joseph1967Ontario57228
Mike Richter1966Pennsylvania53029
John Vanbiesbrouck1963Michigan51332
The 1990s is the only decade with multiple American goaltenders
1980s
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Mike Liut1956Ontario54329
Greg Millen1957Ontario51928
Reggie Lemelin1954Quebec43431
Pete Peeters1957Alberta41828
Grant Fuhr1962Alberta41023
The 1980s was the highest scoring decade in NHL history, and the goalkeeping was weak. Only Grant Fuhr is in the Hall of Fame on this list, whereas all other decades feature multiple Hall of Famer players (or at least future Hall of Famers for recent decades).
1970s
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Tony Esposito1943Ontario63532
Rogie Vachon1945Quebec54630
Gilles Meloche1950Quebec46425
Jim Rutherford1949Ontario41826
Ken Dryden1947Ontario39728
Thee 1970s was the last time that all top goalies were from Quebec or Ontario.
1960s
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Glenn Hall1931Saskatchwan51634
Johnny Bower1924Saskatchwan37041
Gump Worsley1929Quebec36636
Jacques Plante1929Quebec33336
Terry Sawchuk1929Manitoba32936
Johnny Bower, Gump Worsely, and Jacques Plante remain the three oldest goalies in NHL history (excluding emergency goalies)
1950s
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Terry Sawchuk1929Manitoba63526
Harry Lumley1926Ontario47829
Al Rollins1926Saskatchwan42829
Gump Worsley1929Quebec39526
Jacques Plante1929Quebec39026
All of the most active goalies in the 1950s were born in either 1926 or 1929.
1940s
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Frank Brimsek1915Minnesota42330
Walter ‘Turk’ Broda1914Manitoba40931
Bill Durnan1916Ontario38329
Harry Lumley1926Ontario32519
Chuck Rayner1920Saskatchewan28625
The 1940s saw the first non-Canadian raised goalie make the list. Harry Lumley was the youngest goalie to ever play in the NHL.
1930s
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Tiny Thompson1903BC46532
Dave Kerr1910Ontario38225
George Hainsworth1893Ontario29142
Roy Worters1900Ontario28635
Wilf Cude1910Wales27825
Besides Carey Price, Tiny Thompson is the only goalie from BC to be top five material. While Wilf Cude was born in Wales, he grew up in Canada.
1920s
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
John Roach1900Ontario31025
Clint Benedict1892Ontario29833
Alex Connell1900Ontario24225
Roy Worters1900Ontario19825
Jake Forbes1897Ontario19628
Clint Benedict was the best goalie in the NHA/NHL for most of his career. Roy Worters was the shortest goalie to ever play in the NHL.
1910s
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Georges Vezina1887Quebec20128
Clint Benedict1892Ontario14323
Paddy Moran1877Quebec13338
Percy LeSueur1881Quebec11934
Bert Lindsay1881Ontario8634
While a typical season was only 24 games long, it’s still an impressive feat that Georges Vezina played 15 straight seasons without missing a game. If he hadn’t have contracted tuberculosis and died in 1926, he’d probably still be playing in the NHL at the age of 133.

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Speaking English is Unique in its Ability to Spread Covid?

Articles like this have been making the rounds this month, highlighting research that points to speaking English as a particularly dangerous language for spreading viruses.

The interesting part for me is that their research stopped at English because the Covid death data reveals a very strong pattern between language and death rates, and it’s not English at the top of the chart.

All of the top 10 countries in the world with the highest Covid death rates have high romance language speakers.

(As an aside, it has just dawned on me that the French province of Quebec has by far the highest Covid death rate in Canada, perhaps for the same reasons.)

Anyway, the data (as of September 25th, 2020) shows the top 10 Covid-19 death rate nations in the world are:

And of course, just outside of the top 10 are Italy and Mexico (along with the UK).

I am not making a scientific claim connecting language and virus spreading, only pointing out the interesting observation that there appears to be very strong correlation between a high death rate and the prevalence of romance languages.

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Misleading Graphs

I love charts and maps as much as the next guy, but most of the graphs I come across — even in respected newspapers like the New York Times — are lacking even an attempt at rudimentary accuracy. This is extremely annoying.

Today’s example is meant to show you which climatic variable is most likely to cause disaster in each county/borough in the United States.

At least they did put it in the “Opinions” section on account of this just being someone’s personal opinion about climate change impacts.

Unfortunately, the average person would likely assume there’s some sort of scientific rigor behind the graphic.

My immediate assumption was that this graph had some science behind it — that was until I clicked on a couple of areas I’m familiar with. The first was Skagway, Alaska where the graph claims that sea level rise is the major problem!

To the average observer (and to the author who never bothered gathering data beyond “oh, look, the town sits by the ocean!”), this would make sense, but in reality, the land is being pushed out of the ocean along the panhandle of Alaska four times faster than the ocean is rising. Therefore, sea level is dropping, and shows no sign of slowing down.

Next, I clicked on the county south of where I live (Okanogan county), and the interactive map states that wildfire risk is medium risk while everything else is low risk. And yet, it spits out “extreme rainfall” as the greatest climate threat in this dry, semi-arid region. It’s hard to explain that one.

In another very dry area, the interior of Alaska, I was expecting to see extremely cold temperatures as the biggest climatic problem, but it also chose extreme rainfall as the greatest climate threat. I supposed that climate change is a lot like modern racism (defined as prejudice plus power) in that a climate threat can only be from a variable thought to be increasing in frequency due to human caused emissions. So if cold kills 1000 people per year and floods kill 2, floods are the real threat because in 100 years there will only be 200 people killed by extreme cold and 20 killed by floods.

Still, if we are going to pick a variable that’s a big problem in Alaska, why not pick melting permafost that is linked to climate change instead of precipitation that models are uncertain about with respect to climate change?

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